COMMENTARY | Some sports fans believe that winning it all is the only way a team can be successful. While I disagree, I can understand that feeling.
Only one team wins it all, however, and expectations, injuries and day-to-day happenings have to be factored in. Expectations change and a team's realistic chances must be reevaluated constantly with these spur-of-the-moment occurrences.
This is very much the case for the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers, who were eliminated in six games by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. It was a massively disappointing end to the series and the season as the Boys in Blue went down 9-0 behind no offense, poor defense, and Clayton Kershaw not being quite as sharp as he usually is.
Even though the campaign ended on a sour note, with all the Dodgers overcame in 2013, calling the season anything but a major success would be naive, shortsighted, and simply wrong.
Overcoming Season-Threatening Injuries
If you told me at the start of the season that this Dodgers club would be without:
1. Matt Kemp for the majority of the season (and when he did play, he wouldn't be 100% at any point)
2. Hanley Ramirez would miss multiple large chunks of time
3. Chad Billingsley would make only two starts
4. Zack Greinke would hit the DL twice
5. Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, Josh Beckett, and Mark Ellis would have DL-stints
I would have told you this was a near-last place club that wouldn't sniff the playoffs.
Those injuries contributed to a terrible start, one that left many questioning if the team was doomed to fail going forward and if it would do so with a new manager. It was more than obvious that the team would play better and see better results once health became less of an issue. But to start so poorly and then rebound to at one point to go 42-8 is one of the greatest achievements in baseball history.
Overcoming Don Mattingly's Managing
I could write novels on Don Mattingly's managerial missteps, but the Cliffs Notes version will suffice. Donnie Baseball's propensity to bunt, put poor-hitting "scrappy" players in the two-hole, mismanage his bullpen, and under-utilize certain guys in the postseason placed the Dodgers at a disadvantage throughout the year.
However, the team's superior talent allowed it to overcome these in-game mistakes and go on an historic run that may not be seen again for decades.
The Future Is Bright
The Dodgers' core for the next half-decade plus will be centered around Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke, Kenley Jansen, Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and strong top tier prospects in Corey Seager, Zach Lee, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, Chris Anderson, and other pieces at both the major and minor league levels.
With an ownership group willing to spend and the ability to surround that core with players like Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Alexander Guerrero, and any number of upcoming free agents and players available through trade, this won't be the Dodgers' last deep postseason run.
The fact that the Dodgers made it to Game 6 of the NLCS without their best position player in Kemp (73 games, none in the postseason); No. 3 starter Billingsley (season-ending Tommy John surgery after two starts); offensive MVP in HanRam banged up all year (plus breaking his rib in the first NLCS game, which clearly affected him); and with a manager whose decisions constantly hampered the squad and made it more difficult for it to win, is a humongous accomplishment in and of itself.
The 2013 season was the best season of Dodgers baseball I've seen in my lifetime, and that holds true for countless other fans. The Dodgers -- if healthy -- are primed to be on the best teams in baseball in 2014 and make another deep postseason run at a World Series berth and title.Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at ChadMoriyama.com. You can find and follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Matt Kemp
- Clayton Kershaw
- Hanley Ramirez
- Zack Greinke